The following day, I attended a workshop about preventing gender violence, facilitated by Katz. There, he posed a question to all of the men in the room: “Men, what things do you do to protect yourself from being raped or sexually assaulted?”
Not one man, including myself, could quickly answer the question. Finally, one man raised his hand and said, “Nothing.” Then Katz asked the women, “What things do you do to protect yourself from being raped or sexually assaulted?” Nearly all of the women in the room raised their hand. One by one, each woman testified:
“I don’t make eye contact with men when I walk down the street,” said one.
“I don’t put my drink down at parties,” said another.
“I use the buddy system when I go to parties.”
“I cross the street when I see a group of guys walking in my direction.”
“I use my keys as a potential weapon.”
The women went on for several minutes, until their side of the blackboard was completely filled with responses. The men’s side of the blackboard was blank. I was stunned. I had never heard a group of women say these things before. I thought about all of the women in my life — including my mother, sister and girlfriend — and realized that I had a lot to learn about gender.
Consent is one of the single most important aspect of any relationship, especially one that is sexual or might become sexual. The biggest thing to remember about consent is that it is not ongoing, meaning that a partner may give consent at one point, and then remove that consent at another. Consent is not given automatically simply because one has given it in previous situations, and healthy relationships utilize strong communication, both verbal and physical, when exercising consent.
Here’s some stuff to keep in mind when it comes to proper consent:
Physical consent/body language/enthusiasm
Things to ask yourself/look for.
- Is your partner responsive and enthusiastic to your advances?
- Does your partner seem nervous, upset, afraid, or timid?
- Is your partner encouraging you by pulling you closer or getting closer to you?
- Is your partner being hesitant, turning away, or trying to move away or get out of an embrace or position?
- Does your partner seem like they want to speak out against an action/activity?
- When giving verbal consent, are they enthusiastic or half-hearted?
- When bringing up something new you want to try, does your partner seem eager to participate or are the hesitant to proceed?
- Does your partner pull away from your advances.
Feelings that you should consider when giving consent.
- Do you really want to do this?
- Are you enthusiastic about your partner’s advances?
- Does anything that your partner is doing make you feel uncomfortable?
- Do you feel like you can’t say no?
- Do you say yes and then regret it?
- Do your feel afraid about what your partner is doing?
- Does your partner frighten you?
- Do you feel like you HAVE to say yes?
- Do you feel like you want to stop but are afraid to say it?
Many people don’t think of body language as a form of consent, but it very much is! A person can say “yes,” but their feelings and body may be saying otherwise. Good consent requires good communication, and a part of communication is listening. You have to, essentially, “listen” to your partner’s body actively as well as the fluctuations in their voice to be really certain about whether or not they’re comfortable with what is happening.
Things to ask/say:
- “Are you comfortable with this?”
- “Can I continue?”
- “Do you enjoy this?”
- Where do you want me to touch you?”
- “Tell me when to stop.”
- “Tell me if I hurt you.”
- “Use the safe word if it’s too much.”
- “Can I touch you here?”
- “What do you want me to do?”
- “Is this too much?”
- “Do you want to stop?”
- “Tell me if you want to do something different.”
- “Is it ok if we try/do this?”
- “Do I need to slow down/speed up/stop?”
- “If I do ___ will it be ok?”
- “Are you ready for this?”
- “Can we try something new?”
Answers that do not give consent/revoke consent.
- “I’m not comfortable. Can we stop/slow down/try this later?”
- “I don’t want to do this/continue with this.”
- “I don’t enjoy this.”
- “*Uses safe word.*
- “I don’t want you to touch me me here.”
- “I don’t want you to ___.”
- “You’re hurting me.”
- “This is too much, please stop.”
- “I want you to stop.”
- “I’m not ready for this.”
- “It’s not ok for you to do this.”
- “I don’t want to try that.”
- “I want you to stop now.”
Answers that do give consent/reinforce given consent.
- “I like that, please continue.”
- “I’m ok with this.”
- “I’m comfortable with what you’re doing.”
- “Don’t stop.”
- “I like it when you ___.”
- “I enjoy this.”
- “I want you to go on.”
- “I want you to touch me there.”
- “I want to try/do this.”
- “Speed up/slow down/do this..”
- “I want to do more.”
Ways to not pressure partners.
- “It’s ok if you don’t want to.”
- “I don’t want to do anything you’re not ready for, so we can wait.”
- “I respect your choice and won’t go further then you want.”
- “I can wait until you’re ready to do more.”
- “Tell me what you want, and we can do just that so you’re not uncomfortable.”
- “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, so we’ll stop.”
- “I understand you’re not ready. It’s no big deal.”
Again, communication, communication, communication. Verbally establishing what is and isn’t ok while also being aware of the physical signs of consent is key. Keep in mind that you don’t just have to ask these questions during sexual activity. Talk about these kinds of things outside of the bedroom too! You can get into detailed conversations about how you want things to go, what you are and aren’t comfortable with, and if anything changes while you’re engaging in sexual activity, you have the power to change your consent. Giving, receiving, and respecting consent is an ongoing process.
Consent while under the influence of alcohol.
Things to ask yourself before you drink.
- Do you want to engage in sexual activity while under the influence?
- How much are you planning drink?
- What kind of people are you going to be around?
- Do the people you’re around know your boundaries?
- Are you in an environment where you’ll be safe?
- Are you going to hook up or be with a repeat partner?
Things to ask others before they drink.
- “Do you wanna hook up?”
- “Are you comfortable with drunk sex?”
- “Is it ok if we mess around while we’re drinking/drunk?”
- “I know we’ve had drunk sex before, but do you want to do it again?”
When consent cannot be given while drunk.
- When someone is passed out.
- When someone has blacked out.
- When someone is wasted, slurring words, stumbling, ect.
- When someone has specified before drinking that they don’t want sex.
What is NOT drunk consent, and can be considered rape.
- Pretending to help someone to bed and then sleeping with them while drunk/wasted.
- Having sex, touching, or doing other things to someone who is unaware of what is going on.
- Doing the above things to someone who is drunk/wasted who makes it verbally (no matter how slurred or muttered) clear that they do not want you doing these things to them.
- Having sex, touching, or doing other things with someone who is drunk/wasted who the next day says that they did not consent to those activities.
- Having sex, touching, or doing other things with a drunk/wasted significant other who the next days says that they did not consent to those activities.
- Having sex, touching, or doing other things with a drunk/wasted person who later feels that they were taken advantage of or coerced.
Important things to remember about drunk consent.
- People who are drunk have impaired inhibitions, which means they might do things they would not do otherwise if they were sober. Being tipsy and being drunk/wasted have differing levels of consent accuracy, and it is up to you, the person asking for consent, to make wise decisions. Even if it is a partner or friend, you must take into account the situation and ask yourself if they would give you consent in a sober situation, and if THIS situation is one they would give consent it. Be mindful of signs that show that people cannot give consent or haven’t given consent. Even if your advances are not malicious in nature, the other person may not have actually given you consent, and you could end up in an unpleasent situation.
- Please, please, please remember that a person who is drunk is not a “target.” It is never good to pin-point people who are drunk or wasted for sex because those people may or may not actually be consenting, and the decision to seek out drunk people because they’re “easy,” or “asking for it” perpetuates the idea that if you’re drinking and someone has sex with or does sexual things to you without your consent, that it’s YOUR fault that you were raped/taken advantage of, and NOT the person who did the raping/assault.
Things to remember about consent.
- Consent is not ongoing or automatic. Fuck buddies, monogamous partners, open partners, spouses, friends with benefits, all of these relationships and more HAVE to practice consent. Saying “yes” one day does not guarantee a “yes” the next. Being in a relationship or having done sexual things prior is not an excuse to ignore lack of consent.
- Another thing to remember is that it’s just women*/female-identifying people who give consent, nor is it just men*/male identifying people who have to get it. If a person is not comfortable with something, they should be respected by their partner to not be pressured, no matter what their gender identity is!
- Consent is all about communication from all participants. If someone does not give enthusiastic, genuine consent, even if it’s a yes, it is not truly consent.
One last thing…
Always remember that CONSENT IS SEXY. There’s nothing better then fully immersing and engaging in sex that you’re 100% enthusiastic about!